If you are new to fermenting, sauerkraut is a great place to start. A little patience, salt, and cabbage are all you need to get started. Sauerkraut is, simply put, fermented cabbage. Before I started fermenting, it seemed foreign and intimidating. Once I tried it for the first time I realized how easy it was to preserve vegetables through fermentation.Jump to Recipe
So, why not just buy sauerkraut from the grocery store? While there are reliable brands of sauerkraut, most store-bought sauerkraut has been heated with very high heat, which kills the beneficial bacteria produced during the fermentation process.
There are hundreds of different ways to make sauerkraut, but I like to keep things simple around here. Uncomplicated, basic sauerkraut that tastes amazing and is so nourishing for your body.
What is fermentation?
There are various forms of fermentation including alcoholic fermentation and lactic acid fermentation (lacto-fermentation). Sauerkraut uses lacto-fermentation. To avoid getting too technical, lacto-fermentation is the process where the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are transformed into lactic acid, which is a preservative. Salt plays a huge role in the fermentation process. Salt adds flavor, draws out water and prevents bad bacteria from multiplying.
Many different vegetables require you to use a basic 2% brine to start the fermentation process. For sauerkraut, it is not necessary due to the high water content in the cabbage. All you need is the cabbage and salt!
What are the health benefits of fermenting?
People have been using fermentation as a way to preserve food for a very long time. Before refrigerators were around, fermentation was used to preserve summer garden harvests for longer periods of time. Heat destroys the beneficial bacteria created during the fermenting process, so to reap the benefits of sauerkraut, it must remain raw.
The benefits of sauerkraut can include
- Improved digestion through introduction of probiotics
- Reduction of inflammation and allergies
- Improved mood
- Supplies cancer-fighting antioxidants
Wide mouth mason jar (I use quart size mason jars)
Oxygen Extractor pump
You can buy everything above or get everything you need in this kit (excluding mason jars)!
- 1 medium to large size head of cabbage
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- Remove any damaged outer leaves. Core the cabbage and cut into thin slices.
- Place shredded cabbage and salt into a large mixing bowl. Let ingredients sit for several minutes until the cabbage softens and begins to release water.
- Using your hands, knead the cabbage to release it’s liquid into the bowl. Do this until the cabbage is no longer stiff and there is a enough liquid in the bowl to cover the cabbage when transferred into the mason jar. This will take approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer sauerkraut into mason jars and tightly pack it down. Make sure all of the cabbage is covered in the brine.
- Add a glass fermentation weight into the top of the mason jar to keep the sauerkraut submerged in the liquid. Place the fermenting lid on the mason jar and use the oxygen extractor to pull out any remaining oxygen from the jar.
- Store your mason jar in a dark place (I use a kitchen cupboard) for anywhere from 3 days to several months. Ideally, the room temperature should remain between 65°F-75°F. The longer you let it ferment, the more sour it becomes. When it has reached your desired flavor, place in the refrigerator for long-term storage for up to 6 months.
Interested in learning more about fermentation and how to start fermenting your own foods? Check out these highly-rated books to begin deepening your understanding of fermentation and become more adventurous in the kitchen!